Supplement | HBS Case Collection | May 2011 (Revised January 2012)

OPOWER: Increasing Energy Efficiency through Normative Influence (B)

by Maarten W. Bos, Amy J.C. Cuddy and Kyle Todd Doherty

Abstract

The case profiles OPOWER, an energy efficiency software company that applies Cialdini's principles of social influence to successfully encourage consumers to reduce their energy usage. OPOWER was co-founded in 2008 by two young Harvard graduates, Dan Yates and Alex Laskey, who were inspired by Robert Cialdini's behavioral science research showing that people's normative beliefs - and messaging tailored to those beliefs - had a powerful and measurable impact on their energy-conserving behaviors. Yates and Laskey redesigned the home energy bill to include normative messaging, including feedback on how consumers' energy usage compares to their neighbors' usage. Through early trials of the program, the electrical utilities began seeing 1.5% to 3.5% savings in energy usage, almost immediately. After the rapid success of OPOWER's first three years, Yates and Laskey wondered whether their approach would produce sustainable results: what strategy should they pursue to ensure that consumers continue to read and respond to the normative messaging in the "Energy Bill 2.0"?

Keywords: Energy Conservation;

Citation:

Bos, Maarten W., Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Kyle Todd Doherty. "OPOWER: Increasing Energy Efficiency through Normative Influence (B)." Harvard Business School Supplement 911-061, May 2011. (Revised January 2012.)